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UN Week – 10/28/13

March 10, 2014

UN Week 10/28/13

by John Carey

This blog entry is written by a member of our blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone

Last week we talked about the unprecedented withdrawal of Saudi Arabia from the Security Council seat to which it had just been elected. I tried to stress how sought-after such seats are. Now there is a development that dramatizes how eager most governments are to sit on the UN’s top deliberative body.

Those countries guaranteed Security Council seats under the UN Charter are five in number, known as the Permanent Five, or Perm Five for short. The are the countries that led the way to victory in World War II over Germany and Japan, the US, the UK, Russia, China and France. But now there is another group, calling themselves “the G4,” consisting of two losers in that war, Germany and Japan, as well as two modern national power houses, India and Japan. They want to belong to the club, especially as new permanent members.

The G4 sweeten their membership campaign by also advocating a greater number of non-permanent seats than the present ten. They argued in a statement issued on October 22nd that, “it has been almost 10 years since international leaders committed themselves, in the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit, to an early reform of the Security Council.” They “would like to request . . . support, allowing us to intensify efforts to translate the existing agreement into concrete outcomes by 2015, when the United Nations commemorates its seventieth anniversary.”

The Foreign Ministers of the G4 argued that, “almost 70 years after the creation of the United Nations, reform of the Security Council is long overdue. They agreed that difficulties of the Security Council in dealing with international challenges, including current ones, have further highlighted the need for United Nations Security Council reform to better reflect geographical realities of the twenty-first century and make the Council more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions. * * * They also reaffirmed their view of the importance of developing countries, in particular Africa, being represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of an enlarged Council.”

The four Foreign Ministers made a practical suggestion when they “expressed their commitment to continue to work in close cooperation and in a spirit of flexibility with other Member States and groups of Member States, in particular the African States, in genuine text-based negotiations.” (emphasis added). Surely anyone who has engaged in serious negotiations, whether in diplomacy or in business or other fields, knows that talking alone is not enough; words need to be put down on paper and signed onto, or else nothing has been finalized.

This was brought home to me very graphically in the early 1980s when a client was to meet with parties from a thousand miles away to work out a contract of some magnitude. The meeting was to take place at Newark airport, where our opposite numbers would be arriving. What would happen all too often in such a situation was that the executives on each side, with advice of their legal counsel, would talk back and forth and finally shake hands on what they thought was a deal. Then it would be, “leave it to the lawyers to write up what we have agreed on.”

The trouble with that scenario was that the lawyers would do their best to protect their clients with defensive wording that might cause more annoyance than it allayed. I was determined to avoid that self-defeating situation at Newark that day. I wanted to persuade my clients to call for text-based negotiations. So I loaded into my car the 26-pound Kaypro computer, the first of a number I have owned over the years, and my equally weighty printer. These I lugged into a small room adjoining the conference room.

I reminded my clients that, thus equipped, we and our opposite numbers could save a great deal of lawyers’ time and expense by simply having whatever either side proposed immediately put in writing with copies for each participant to peruse.

I am sorry to say that my computer and printer sat unused. The executives shook hands and clapped each other on the back while “leaving it to the lawyers to put the deal in writing as soon as possible.” Predictably, the lawyers found a number of issues that the executives had not thought of or agreed on. So, much time was lost and much unnecessary expense incurred. The executives had declined the opportunity to use text-based negotiations.

So let it not be, at the UN, on Security Council enlargement or any other issues of note. If we look at the Charter and consider what steps would be involved in actually enlarging the Council, we can see what the D4 are up against. Article 108 specifies that Charter amendments require a vote of 2/3 of the Members of the Assembly and ratification by 2/3 of the UN members “including all the permanent members of the Security Council.” Therein lies the rub. When are the US, UK, Russia, China and France likely to give up any of their remarkable privileges? I submit that this will happen when Hell freezes over, and not before.

A study should be made, for academic purposes if none other, to see if in the history of the world countries have given up, short of having been conquered, any privileges remotely comparable to those of the Permanent Five in the UN Security Council.-

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